January 29, 2016 § 14 Comments
Wanky training methods, scientifically tested to the highest standards of homeopathic remedies and divining rods, were recently challenged by a rider who derided my methods as “crap” and “utter bullshit.”
Of course I didn’t pay any attention to him because he was totally unable to explain the difference between “crap” and “utter bullshit.”
There are lots of technical areas around fitness and profamateur leaky prostate underwear racing, but a question I get asked a lot is, “How do I know when I’m peaking?”
Generally this is easy to answer because you’re riding everyone off your fuggin’ wheel, but most profamateur leaky prostate underwear racers get plagued by this question at night, or on the pot, or after a triple Italian sausage with pepperoni and mayonnaise extra large pizza with a gallon of IPA, so putting them on the bike and doing the “Ride ’em off your wheel” test isn’t practical.
Instead, I use the “You’re so vein” test, and it mostly only works with men. If you’re a woman and you pass the “You’re so vein” test then you should get yourself immediately to a cheeseburger.
The human vascular system is composed of veins, arteries, and stuff. The arteries take blood to your muscles, the veins take it away, and the stuff is complicated. For now we will ignore the arteries and stuff.
As you get fitter you get veinier. Sometimes you aren’t even fit and veins, like the beach thongs of spring, are popping out all over. These unfitness veins require surgery, are considered unsightly, and are called “varicose” because it is very coarse to show up with them at a beauty pageant.
Bike racer vein fitness is different. It comes from hard interval training, sprint practices, time in the gym, and a rigorous kimchi-date-broccoli-oxygen diet. Once all these things are done right, you’ll start getting veins in the normal places. But it’s not until you get veins in the special place that you know you’re really fit.
The fitness vein, whose visibility proves you are peaking and generally awesome, is called the left external iliac vein. It is a big old garden-hose blue vein that runs from your abdomen down into your junk and through your pelvis. In normal times, which is to say “putting gobs of peanut butter in your vanilla ice cream times,” this vein is hidden under a protective layer of lard.
As you get fitter and scale back on the snacks, the fat gets murdered by the muscles and carted off to the adipose burial disposal system, a/k/a “Mr. Poop.”
Pretty soon the forces of muscle have conquered the field of fat and your twelve months of abstemious living and pure hell are about to pay off because you’re going to get a top-10 in the Tuttle Creek Road Race next weekend in Lone Pine, where there are never more than ten entrants.
After enough peanut butter has been scrubbed away, this puppy starts popping out on your abdomen. It is bluish-green and when you touch it, it goes boiyong-boiyong. Your wife will say it’s gross, but when you tell her that women can never see theirs because they have too much tummy fat, she will smack you with the frying pan before sneaking off into the bathroom, locking the door, and hoisting her nightgown to see if she can find HER left external iliac vein.
Don’t say anything to her when she comes out if you value your life.
Anyway, that’s our fitness post for today. If you’re like Boozy P., who used to have lifetime franking privileges at the craft brewery next door, then woke up one day to find the brewery had moved, you may be on your way to cycling fitness. And yes, it’s okay to be vein about it.
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January 28, 2016 § 35 Comments
What we need are more lawsuits and more lawyers who are willing to file them. We need to have the MICRA caps lifted so we can sue the shit out of doctors. Most of our legal system is clogged with corporations suing each other. The opening in the courthouse doors gets smaller and smaller for ordinary people.
So yeah, I like lawsuits and juries. Good stuff, good times.
The other day I fell off my bicycle while going too fast on new tires thinking I was a badass until my Big Orange team asphalt magnets kicked in and I bounced and flounced on my forearm and head and hip and nutsack until resistance (which wasn’t futile) slowed me and finally stopped me in the middle of the road.
They took me to Torrance Memorial Hospital where I wondered what they were memorializing. Aren’t memorials for dead people? I supposed that’s a good name for a hospital, on second thought.
Anyway, they took an x-ray and the tech was like “Yo, dude, no fracture!” which was followed up by the radiologist who read all three films and concluded, “Yo, dude, no fracture!” and was reconfirmed by the ER doc who said, “Yo, dude, no fracture and while we’re at it that’s an awfully tiny nutsack.”
So naturally I found out a week later that I had a fracture. This pissed me off because I’d tossed all my meds and suffered like a pigdog for seven days thinking it was a nutsack strain rather than a crack in my childbearing hips. The ortho was like, “Ah, fuggit dude, nothin’ they could have done about it anyway, ditch the crutches as soon as you can and quit dragging your leg and it’ll heal up in about nine weeks and no I won’t prescribe heroin for sleeping.”
Once I got better I got madder, thinking about all that pain and suffering I went through, soaking my nutsack in a tomato juice and onion poultice when I should have been stabilizing my childbearing hips and mixing my craft water with fistfuls of Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and beetle feet.
Best thing to do, I figured, was to send ol’ Doc Hosskiller a nastygram and threaten them with a four billion dollar lawsuit. THAT’LL TEACH ‘EM.
Mrs. WM had a different idea. “Why not you just tell ’em onna what happened, nice times?”
She’s nuts, right? But she also holds the key to dinner, so I agreed. Out went the nice letter.
Couple days later I got a call from the head of the ER, Dr. Eric Nakkim. He apologized for his staff missing the fracture. He sympathetically listened to me moan and groan about the pain, and it was genuine sympathy. Then he promised to make it right and not charge me for the physician services. He also wanted to know how this could be used to improve services at the hospital.
He was polite, kind, thoughtful, and really cared about what I’d been through. I felt like a no good, dirty dog, whiny-ass pusbucket. And I respected the heck out of his approach.
More lawsuits in America? Hell, yes.
But not this time. Not even close.
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January 26, 2016 § 33 Comments
There are a lot of dicks in the world. It’s hard to define exactly what makes someone a dick, but here’s a definition that comes close: They try to take your happy.
One of the great things about bicycling, whether you race or whether you group ride or whether you pedal your rusted out clunker to the medical pot shop, is that it makes you happy. I know so many people who have found their happy on bicycles.
Sometimes it’s a happy from alcoholism, from a lost loved one, from a divorce, from an illness, or maybe a plain old lousy job. But the people I hang around with have bike happy in common.
So I take a dim view of people who try to take other people’s happy. For instance, the dick who came up to me after yesterday’s race and chastised me for my crummy tactics. He was right, I am pretty lousy at it. But in all the races I’ve done since 1984, no one has ever come up to me after a race and yelled at me because of that.
So I nicely told the dick to please stop yelling at me, the race had just ended, and after we’d cooled down we could go over to the team tent and he could explain my failings. I’d be more receptive–there would at least not be an inch of sheet snot hanging over my face–and he might be less angry and might choose nicer words. In fact, it was entirely possible that after a few minutes the most important thing that had ever happened in the history of the earth might not be the events of this 45+ old fellows bicycle race and splatting contest, and it was even more possible that whatever had happened in this incredibly important sporting event might not even be worth shouting about. Weirder still, with a few moments of rest and reflection, I might be able to even talk back rather than gasp.
He continued yelling at me and called me a tool, another true statement perhaps, but it made me wonder what kind of tool. A crescent wrench? One of those funny things you stick on the end of a cassette to remove the lockring?
A buddy came up and tried to calm him down but it didn’t work. I slowed to a super crawl and he rode off, haranguing and yelling and complaining about something that everyone already knows: I’m not very good at racing my bike.
Then in an unrelated happening, Friend told me today about a Significant Other who was on the I Hate Your Cycling warpath. Even though Friend doesn’t ride that much, and only does it when S/O is at work or otherwise engaged, S/O constantly rages about cycling. S/O is very miserable at S/O’s job and takes it out on Friend, ostensibly because Friend rides too much, but actually because S/O would like to be doing something else.
Friend’s significant other and the After Race Yeller-Atter have this in common: They are both trying to take someone else’s happy.
And I told Friend the same thing I told myself as I pedaled over to the tent after the race, musing about the miserable little turd who had rubbed some of his stink off on me. “Don’t let anyone take your happy. We get one trip down the path and there are no do-overs.”
When you think about it that way, it makes you determined to hang onto your happy pretty hard. And it makes you unsympathetic towards those trying to take it away.
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January 25, 2016 § 18 Comments
Fear. If you want to see it in its natural state, gaze along the starting ranks of any Cat 5 men’s race or Cat 4 women’s race. You’ll spot the one or two faces that are frozen with it, the most horrible of all human emotions.
I have a friend whose head is harder than a block of concrete. It is impermeable to reason and utterly advice-resistant when it has to do with anything related to cycling. “You need to do more group rides so that you won’t kill everyone with your terrible bike handling,” I told her after she had almost killed everyone with her terrible bike handling. So she did more solo rides.
“If you want to not get dropped on the NPR you need to do fast flat rides more. Like, say, the NPR.” She went out and did hills for a month.
Most dreadful of all was when she asked me to be her coach. “Why?” I asked. “I know nothing and you listen to no one. What a colossal waste of time.”
But she insisted, so I drew up a training plan for her. It went like this:
Monday: Don’t ride your bike.
Tuesday: Ride your bike.
Wednesday: Ride your bike.
Thursday: Ride your bike.
Friday: Ride your bike.
Saturday: Ride your bike.
Sunday: Ride your bike.
“That’s bullshit!” she said. “That’s not a training plan.”
“Of course it is,” I said. “You just don’t like it.”
“That’s dumb,” she said, and promptly went off and rode three times a week, ran four times a week, and made sure that she was so exhausted that she eventually got sick and had to stay home for ten days straight.
“You need a bike fit,” I told her.
“It’s a thing where someone sets up your bike so that your ass gets closer to your hands.”
“Okay,” she said, “where should I go to do that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never had one. That’s why my position is so bad.”
“You fucking hypocrite,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed.
Then one day she said, “I want to do a race.”
“Fine,” I said. “Do one.”
“Which one should I do?”
“CBR. First one of the season.”
“What is it?”
“A flat, four-corner crit, 40 minutes long and a ten-minute drive from home.”
“I hate flats,” she said, so so she signed up for Tuttle Creek, a mountainous, horrible, challenging road race located 5 hours away in the Sierras and subject to high wind, snow, and freezing rain.
Yesterday morning I raced CBR and she was there spectating with her kids. She was fuming. “What’s up?” I said.
“This race,” she said. “I can’t stand it.”
“Can’t stand what?”
“Watching. I hate watching.”
“So pin on a fucking number,” I said. She spun on her heel and went over to the registration desk.
An hour later she was standing in the staging area with her number pinned on. She was deathly pale and clenched up tighter than an oyster. Her lips were frozen in place and she was punching out sharp, stuttering breaths. I walked over. “Hey,” I said. “Relax.” I put my arm on her shoulder. She is slim but incredibly muscular, and it was like touching Charon’s thigh or a boulder, rock hard. Not that I’ve ever touched Charon’s thigh, but you can tell by looking.
“I’m so fucking scared,” she said.
“I know. You look like someone just told you that Santa Claus is coming down the chimney.”
“With an axe and a bag full of human heads.”
She laughed, a little. “I’m so fucking scared.”
“Look,” I said. “Relax. Just now. For ten seconds. Then you can tense all up again because the other women are going to beat your ass. Or you can quit.”
The thing about my friend I forgot to tell you is that she hates to lose and that she is a former champion figure skater and that she is the single most competitive person I have ever met, ever. “What did you say?”
“Quit. Just walk away. It’s a stupid bike race. There’s nothing wrong with being a give-up chicken quitter who is so easily intimidated that you can’t even start a wanker-filled Cat 4 women’s bike race in an empty parking lot. Lots of people are chicken that way.”
“You are such an asshole.” But my hand was still on her shoulder and I felt it relax like butter, and her eyes flashed.
“Just trying to help.”
She clipped in and rode to the start. The gun went off and she was nowhere to be seen for the entire race, hanging at the back and trying not to fall off her bicycle as she navigated turns that were wide enough to drive a space shuttle through.
Then on the last lap coming out the last turn, where she was dead last and 500 yards from the line, she jumped out of her saddle, passed the entire field one-by-one, and got fourth. It was like watching Secretariat without the midget and the whip.
I came up to her after the race. “That was awesome!” I said.
She looked at me defiantly, and she wasn’t afraid anymore. “I could have won.” And yes, her eyes were flashing.
January 24, 2016 § 13 Comments
My coach, who didn’t know he was my coach, had sat up and was drifting back. I had been dropped on the very first section of the Switchbacks after Charon, Prez, and Bruins had split the huge field into fragments going through Portuguese Bend. They spun out the back like used rocket stages, but the damage had been done.
The lead group had about twenty riders and they pedaled away.
When Canyon Bob came by and motioned me to get on his wheel, it seemed like a good idea. I temporarily forgot about my [insert sympathy-getting excuse here] broken pelvis and focused instead on how happy I was to be on my bike.
Bob quickly brought me back into the way-too-red zone, and then I was alone again. Up ahead was Coach. I call him Coach because he once gave me some advice. “Don’t be the strongest guy in the break,” he had said.
Lots of people give me advice, of course. “Sit in.”
“Don’t move around on your bike so much.”
“Quit being such a dick.”
However, none of them won 26 pro races last year, have a fistful of national pro crit titles, or are considered the best bike racer in America.
Also, Coach became my coach because he hardly ever talks to me. I hate it when people tell me stuff. I am stubborn and dislike advice, especially when it’s unsolicited and free, and even more so when it’s paid for and requested. I once paid a woman $10,000 to not teach me how to pass the bar exam. That’s a true story, and I passed.
Ron Peterson, one of the top coaches in the business, has a word for people like me: “Uncoachable.”
Anyway, Coach has never given me any training advice. He doesn’t care about how I ride, when I ride, what gears I ride in, what equipment I ride on, what my schedule, diet, power numbers, heart rate, or what race calendar is. “You can find someone to advise you about all that on the Internet,” he’s fond of saying.
“Only thing I can help you with is, you know, actually winning a race.”
At first I thought he was kidding until, following his advice, I won my first two races since 1986. Do you know how hard it is to win a bicycle race, even a creaky-kneed, leaky prostate one? Let me tell you: It’s very hard. Very, very, very hard.
And it’s harder the older you get because there’s no churn. There are no younger guys coming up displacing the old guys. As you get older, so does your competition. They age grade right along next to you. The guys who were beating you in ’88 keep beating you in ’98, then in ’08, and soon enough in ’18. In math terms, they’re always doing calculus, you’re still struggling with arithmetic.
Coach is awesome because he fills in the huge void of ignorance that I live in, the ignorance of strategy. And the strategy itself isn’t difficult, but then again neither was sailing to America for the first time as long as you knew the earth was round.
So Coach drifted back. “Get on my wheel,” he said. I did, panting so hard it hurt almost as bad as my broken nutsack and fractured childbearing pelvis.
After a few seconds, you know, those really, really long ones that other people call “minutes,” normal breathing resumed. “Okay,” I said. “I can go faster.”
But coach didn’t go any faster. He kept me in this strange zone that said “I am doing a lot but I can do more.” My instinct, of course, was to do more. Isn’t that how you beat people?
Pretty soon we caught and dropped Canyon Bob, who I never catch and never drop. Then we got passed by a mini-three-man-train. Coach let them go. “They’re dropping us!” I wailed.
Coach looked back. “The climb’s not over yet.”
This bizarre purgatory of pain but not unendurable pain continued to ratchet up. We caught the mini-train. Where the climb jerks up for 200 yards they splintered and we left them for good without ever accelerating.
“Steep walls have a speed limit,” said Coach. “It requires exponentially more energy to accelerate on them and if you kick it there you have nothing left for the longer, easier grade where you can make time.”
We made time and picked off other riders, guys who are lots fitter and faster and younger and richer have prettier mistresses. They were not happy to get passed by Ol’ Gimpy Busted Nutsack latched onto the wheel of reigning national champ a/k/a Coach.
Now what had seemed like steady but endurable pain became suddenly awful. This corresponded with the short flat spot on the way to the Domes, where Coach sped up. I popped, he slowed, and I got back on, settling into purgatory again.
We caught and shed several more riders.
Afterwards he explained it. “Don’t ride in the red.”
“Okay,” I gasped.
I thought about that, and it prompted a billion questions until I reminded myself that one fool can keep a hundred wise men busy for a thousand years.
Then I pondered that out of that entire gaggle of idiots, only 11 had finished ahead of me, none was my age, none had a broken ballsack, and we’d picked off about half of the initial lead group.
“Hey, Coach!” I shouted. But like Racer X, he was gone.
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January 22, 2016 § 41 Comments
And that means you are insane. At least that’s what my friend was thinking, because he said, in the most normal tone of voice, “I have seven bikes.”
No one asked him why. Everyone turned to me, though, and wanted more information about this odd behavior of mine.
With a few exceptions, I’ve always had one bike, thanks to Scott Dickson, he of the multiple Paris-Brest-Paris victories. “It’s impossible to ride more than one bike at a time,” he said back in 1983. I’ve yet to see him proven wrong.
He also looked down his nose at multiple bikes because, “You’ll cannibalize the one to keep the other running, ending up with only one bike anyway.”
But there were a few brief times when I had multiple bikes. From 1992-2000 I had my blue Eddy Merckx and a silver Bridgestone with baskets, a baby seat, and fenders. In 2000 I briefly owned a mountain bike along with my red Masi. The mountain bike left and I picked up a great deal on a 7-11 Eddy Mercxk to go with the Masi. Sure enough, I cannibalized the Masi, then sold both for a Specialized SL3.
For three years I had a Giant TCX to go with my Giant TCR. Then I got rid of the TCX and am back down to one bike. Now, however, with a new club and a new bike sponsor, it’s about time to retire the Giant TCR and get a new bike.
So I will have to sell my Giant. “Why not keep the Giant as a back-up?” my buddy asked. “You never know when you’re going to, uh, crash … ” he gazed at my crooked hip.
“No room for the spare bike.”
“Move to a bigger apartment.”
“Make your wife get a job.”
“Divorce is even more expensive than a new bike.”
“Hmmm,” he said. “Do your other friends know you only have one bike? That’s weird.”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t tell them,” he counseled. “No one will want to ride with you anymore.”
“Fact. One bike = subversive. You’re probably anti-military, right?”
“See, I knew it. Do you like Bernie Sanders?”
“He makes a lot of sense.”
“Uh-huh. Free college and healthcare for everyone, paid for with unicorn farts?”
“That’s your problem. You’re treating bicycles as an example of needless consumerism. You probably only have two cars.”
“Oooooh. That’s bad. Prius?”
“Damn. Are any of your kids gay?”
“I don’t think so. But I wouldn’t care if they were.”
“You definitely need a couple more bikes.”
“Because it will kind of, you know, cover your tracks. With seven bikes no one will think you’re a commie lefty Sanders unicorn farter. They’ll think you’re a Republican.”
“Sure. I’ll even get you one of the made-in-China Trump hats that says ‘Buy American!'”
“But whatever on earth for? I hate Trump.”
“Of course you do. But it’s better that your friends think you’re a Trump guy than that you only have one bike. Trust me.”
“Okay,” I said. “I will.”
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January 22, 2016 § 128 Comments
There is a big Marine Corps base south of here called Camp Pendleton, and a Marine Corps Air Station called Miramar. Now don’t get me wrong, I’n no fan of the military. Yes, I know my father was a vet, and freedom isn’t free, and blah blah blah, but in a country where we spend zillions on defense and haven’t won a war since 1945 despite failed efforts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia, and a bunch of other places, it seems like our military is less a fighting force than it is a budget appropriations boondoggle.
$1 trillion for a fighter jet that doesn’t really work, etc., and that $1 trillion as in “enough zeroes to give a college degree to every American who wants one.”
Of course that’s to be expected because the military dredges from the bottom of the barrel when it recruits, generally going after the poorest, worst educated, most future-less kids who can be suckered into a job that offers their parents a few grand in death benefits for the chance to have the child’s face melted off by an IED on the streets of Baghdad.
But don’t worry, son, we’ll put an “I support the troops” bumper sticker on the back of the SUV and make sure that you get preferential seating on Southwest after finding bin stowage for your prosthetic everything.
Our military sucks, not because of anything I say, but because the average person wouldn’t join if you paid them, which is exactly what the military does. We have an army of mercenaries, and rightly so. Everyone knows that unless you are a career officer retiring with a rank of major or higher, the military is a horrible substitute for a college degree, and everyone knows that despite all the lip service to our “heroes,” they’re treated like dogshit once they return from combat and that their chances of living homeless, addicted, horrible lives is sky high. To top it off, the officers for whom a military career is actually a decent one all have college if not advanced college degrees.
If the best preparation for a career and a life you could give your child was a non-com job in the military, society generally recognizes you as having failed miserably. And please don’t email me about how your child got her life straightened out in the Marines, how yours is a multi-generational military family, or how it has worked out for your kid. In general, it’s a dead end with potholes and falling down, roofless structures with their windows all shot out.
The “benefits” of serving in the military are so obviously non-existent that recruiters don’t even bother to set foot in high schools, especially wealthy ones, who prepare most of their students for college. That’s because being told what to do and then shot at looks like a raw deal compared to smoking dope for five years, sleeping around, learning stuff that you like, and getting a job with Google. The people who run the military will admit all this in private, and more: Recruits are terrible and it’s virtually impossible to fill quotas with qualified volunteers.
Top it off with the fact that we don’t have any more good wars to fight, that there isn’t a draft, and that most military jobs don’t prepare you for work outside the military, and at the end of the day you can’t escape the fact that today’s service is a badge of failure. Doubt it? Go take a poll of the homeless people in LA’s skid row. Ex-military are everywhere. Ex Wall Street traders are virtually non-existent. Ask managers at good firms what they want in a new hire and they will say, “A degree from a good college, an internship, and good communications skills.” Few will say, “A kid from a shitty high school with no college who can’t spell or read and who has served six tours in Iraq.”
Yes, I know your parents and grandparents saved democracy, but that was then. Now the only thing you get from being in the army is preferential seating on an airplane, which most people can get by paying $40 and don’t have to donate their youth to some rebel uprising in a Middle Eastern war zone, fighting for the rights of Exxon and the rights of a Saudi prince to execute bloggers and repress women.
Still, there are more practical reasons to be down our military, and nowhere do our armed forces show their undemocratic stripes more shamelessly than on Camp Pendleton. This federal facility blocks access to all cyclists traveling between San Diego County and Orange County. In the past, all you had to do was show a driver license, smile, and they’d wave you through.
But no more. A few days ago the USMC brought the hammer down on a group of mountain bikers who had unknowingly crossed onto the air station. They even confiscated their bikes, proving that even though the USMC gets its ass kicked up one side and down the other by a bunch of mule-riding, heroin-selling, illiterate and ragtag Taliban, it can sure as hell run roughshod over a few skinny bicyclist computer programmers. Tough guys, one and all.
However, or perhaps because the fighting forces of the USA have returned home soundly beaten from the last few engagements overseas, the good commanders of Camp Pendleton have now put a new set of rules set to take place on 3/1/16 that require anyone who wants to cross the base–i.e. ride a bike–to register on a website ANNUALLY, be approved, and carry an I.D. All this so that we can use land that is already ours. Imagine the havoc that’s going to wreak with people from out of state, or out of area. Foreigners won’t be allowed to register.
What’s worse are the banana-suckers on the cyclist advocacy side who have posted this information in an attempt to “work with” the base commander. Why aren’t we calling this buffoon out and asking him why the hell he’s commanding a military base if he can’t deal with a few cyclists? I know his armed forces suck, but it’s news even to me that a handful of shaved leg bike pedalers armed with water bottles pose a security threat to the USMC, an arm of the military that once prided itself as being pretty much fearless and proved it at Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Pelelieu, and Iwo Jima.
How times have changed.
Update: USMC Air Station Miramar, formerly known as Top Gun, confiscated the bikes on trails that were not marked, but that were on federal property adjacent to the popular Mission Trails community park system. Riders confirm that the signage is either very confusing or, depending on where you enter the trails, nonexistent. This are is now patrolled by MP’s in flight suits because, bicycles. USMC will return the bikes after the fine has been paid by the trespasser. That’s the new America: Militarized and policed to the teeth. Criticize it and you’re a treasonous liberal lefty America-hating fact-less idiot: http://www.cbs8.com/story/31018621/marines-confiscating-bikes-of-trespassers-on-base.
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